Embassy Row

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This article is about the Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.. For other uses, see Embassy Row (disambiguation).
Private residences and embassies located on Massachusetts Avenue between 22nd Street and Sheridan Circle
The Japanese Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue
The Indian Embassy building with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the foreground.

Embassy Row is the informal name for the section of Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. between Scott Circle and the North side of the United States Naval Observatory, in which embassies, diplomatic missions, and other diplomatic representations are concentrated. By extension, the name may be used to encompass nearby streets which also host diplomatic buildings.


Considered Washington's premier residential address in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Massachusetts Avenue became known for its numerous mansions housing the city's social and political elites. The segment between Scott Circle and Sheridan Circle gained the nickname "Millionaires' Row".

The Great Depression caused many to sell their homes. The expansive old estates proved well-suited for use as embassies, and also as lodges of social clubs, giving Embassy Row its present name and identity. Some of the avenue's newer buildings were purpose-designed as embassies, starting with the British Embassy, designed in 1928 by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the Japanese Embassy, built in 1931.

On the southeastern section of the row, between Scott Circle and Dupont Circle, many mansions were replaced by larger office or apartment buildings between the 1930s and the 1970s. More recently, several prominent think tanks have clustered in that area.

Many of Embassy Row's diplomatic buildings open to the public once a year in May, an initiative nicknamed Passport DC. This event was started in 2007 by the embassies of member states of the European Union, and extended in 2008 to other countries around the world under coordination by Cultural Tourism DC.[1] Within this program, the EU embassies still open on a separate day, labelled EU Open House. A separate program, the Embassy Series, started in 1994 and coordinates concerts organized in the embassy buildings.[2]

Embassy Row is protected as the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District, created in 1974 following controversy about the demolition of historic townhouses on 1722-28 Massachusetts Ave NW.[3] Many of its notable buildings are listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites.[4]

From Scott Circle to Sheridan Circle[edit]

This section of Massachusetts Avenue was the one known as the "Millionaires' Row" of Washington DC in the late 19th and early 20th century.

North Side

South Side

From Sheridan Circle to Observatory Circle[edit]

North Side

South Side


The monumental setting of the Row has favored the erection of many memorials and statues. They are erected either on private grounds, many of them by the embassies to showcase a prominent national figure, or on public (federal) land following an Act of Congress, including the successive Circles and several triangular parks created by the intersections between the diagonal avenue and the L'Enfant Plan grid. A special case is the statue of Winston Churchill, which has one foot on the grounds of the British Embassy and the other on federal land to symbolize the UK-US alliance.[16]

Other embassies in Washington DC[edit]

In the immediate vicinity of Embassy Row, many other embassies and diplomatic residences are located within one or two blocks of Massachusetts Avenue on cross streets, particularly R, S, and 22nd Streets NW near Sheridan Circle, and in the Kalorama neighborhood north of Embassy Row. The section of New Hampshire Avenue NW north of Dupont Circle alone is home to the embassies of Argentina, Belarus, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Grenada, Jamaica, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

In the early days of Washington DC, most diplomats and ambassadors lived on or around Lafayette Square. The first purpose-designed embassy building in Washington was the embassy of the United Kingdom on 1300 Connecticut Avenue, immediately south of Embassy Row, built in 1872 by Sir Edward Thornton on John Fraser's design, and demolished in 1931. Thornton's choice of location, at a time when Dupont Circle was still almost entirely undeveloped, may be considered the origin of Embassy Row as a diplomatic neighborhood.

However, in the early 20th Century, several European legations gathered farther North-East, on a section of 16th Street near Meridian Hill Park. This area was specifically developed by Mary Foote Henderson to attract embassies, but was severely hit by the Great Depression, and Embassy Row and Kalorama then became comparatively more attractive locations for diplomats. Former embassy buildings there include those of France (arch. George Oakley Totten, Jr., 1907, now the Council for Professional Recognition); Italy (arch. Warren and Wetmore, 1925, under redevelopment as a luxury apartment building); and Spain (arch. George Oakley Totten, Jr., 1923, now the Spain-USA Foundation). The embassies of Ecuador, Lithuania, and Poland are still located in the Meridian Hill neighborhood, as well as the Cuban Interests Section and the Consulate General of Mexico. A bit further up 16th Street, the Embassy Building No. 10, built in the late 1920s, never actually served as an embassy despite being designed as one.

A high-security enclave one mile north of the Naval Observatory, on the federally-owned former grounds of the National Bureau of Standards in Cleveland Park, was developed from 1968 as the International Chancery Center. It is home to the embassies of Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Monaco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates.

A number of other embassies are scattered south of Massachusetts Avenue and closer to the National Mall, notably those of Canada, Mexico, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and the European Union. Still others are located in or around Georgetown, such as those of France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The Caribbean Chancery on 3216 New Mexico Avenue NW hosts the embassies of five English-speaking Caribbean nations.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Passport DC Still Opening Doors — And Not Just to Embassies". The Washington Diplomat. May 2012. 
  2. ^ "About Us". The Embassy Series. 
  3. ^ "Massachusetts Avenue Historic District brochure". District of Columbia. 2000. 
  4. ^ "DC Inventory of Historic Sites". District of Columbia. 
  5. ^ E.J. Applewhite (1981). Washington Itself: An Informal Guide to the Capital of the United States. 
  6. ^ Emporis. "The Bay State Apartments". 
  7. ^ "Modernism in Washington brochure". District of Columbia. 2009. 
  8. ^ Emporis. "Winthrop House". 
  9. ^ James M. Goode (2003). Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings. 
  10. ^ "The History of 2027 Massachusetts Avenue (RAC's building)". Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. 
  11. ^ "Lost & Found Washington: The Hopkins-Miller Houses on Dupont Circle". The House History Man. April 9, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Euram Building". SAH Archipedia. 
  13. ^ Julia Blakely (December 22, 2013). "Wardman and the British Embassy". washingtonembassygardens.wordpress.com. 
  14. ^ "Count Laszlo and Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Széchényi House (Maie H. Williams House)". SAH Archipedia. 
  15. ^ Julia Blakely (December 22, 2013). "Frederick H. Brooke". washingtonembassygardens.wordpress.com. 
  16. ^ "CHURCHILL, Winston: Statue at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.". dcMemorials.com. 
  17. ^ Mike Ghouse (June 19, 2013). "Goddess Saraswati Statue With Barack Obama Symbolizes Relationship Between Indonesia and the U.S.". HuffingtonPost. 
  18. ^ Bulent Atalay (December 10, 2013). "A Defining Statue of Ataturk". National Geographic NewsWatch. 
  19. ^ "Mandela Statue Unveiled in Washington". Voice of America. September 21, 2013. 

External links[edit]